Backyard fun & function!
If you have kids, no matter what their age, then surely at some point along the way you bought a big swing set, complete with a climbing wall, slide and perhaps a clubhouse. And now that big wooden structure is the focal point of your backyard. It can go weeks without anyone playing on it other than the squirrels. But then, there are other days when the kids, young and maybe even not so young, spend hours playing (or hanging out) on it.
So how do you landscape around that big old structure so that it’s safe, attractive and not the only thing you look at in your backyard? My advice, take a look at your surroundings, and use as much natural materials as you can. You also want to keep in mind that the play area isn’t the only thing going on in the backyard! It’s also nice to have some adult seating, entertainment spaces, a place to grill and perhaps even a space to relax!
I found a great backyard assessment guide on the Better Homes & Gardens website. It reminded me that much like inside your home, when designing outdoor spaces, you need to consider who, how and why you are going to use that space. Knowing the answers to these types of questions will help you plan an outdoor space most suitable for your family needs. Click here to review the assessment!
Take this photo for example, it includes a fantastic play area for the kids, a place to eat, a firepit where the grown-ups can hang out and/or the kids can roast marshmallows. The trees and fencing are fitting for the space and provide some nice privacy and shade.
If you have a lot of space outside, or a particular love of gardening, something more along the lines of the this photo might suit you better. Here the homeowner didn’t let the swing set be the focal point of the landscape. Instead it’s beautifully blended into the backyard with lots of variation in height, color and contrast from the surrounding plantings.
Keep in mind that the ground around the play area should be covered with a material that will provide safe landings. In general, I recommend that the material be around 6-8 inches deep and that it should extend somewhere around 3-5 feet past the end of a your slide.
There are several options for what you can use, and lots of factors to consider….like how it will feel on bare feet (I know my kids always take their shoes off!), the cost of the material, it’s appearance, color, environmental impact and whether or not it will absorb heat!
Some surface options for playsets include:
- Play sand
- Pea gravel
- No-splinter bark mulch
- Rubberized mulch
Bear in mind that some types of sand may contain substances that could be harmful for your children, while some types of mulch (especially cocoa mulch) can be very toxic for dogs. Check labels and contact manufacturers before installing your play area ground cover.
You’ll also want to add some sort of border around the play set to contain your landing material. The border can be constructed of wood railroad ties, plastic or composite lumber, or a box can be excavated around the swing set and the ground can provide a border.
We understand that safety is your #1 concern, however, your swing set can be incorporated into your landscape design so that that it’s not the only thing you are looking at in your yard.
And don’t be afraid to steal a few moments on the swings yourself! Nothing takes you back in time like swinging on the swing set!